JERUSALEM: At least three Palestinian militants were killed in a shootout with Israeli troops on Thursday, the latest incident of near-daily bloodshed in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli raid was the most recent in months of deadly arrest operations by the military in the northern West Bank. The past year has been the bloodiest in recent decades.
The Israeli army and police said troops raided the village of Jaba to apprehend suspects wanted for attacks on Israeli soldiers in the vicinity.
The suspects opened fire on the Israeli troops, who shot back and killed three, all members of the Islamic Jihad militant group, police said.
Police released a photo of assault rifles, pistols, ammunition and other items it said troops apprehended from the suspects.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Sufyan Fakhoury, 26, Nayef Malaisha, 25 and Ahmed Fashafsha, 22, and said they were shot by Israeli fire during the military operation.
It said a fourth man was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the head in stable condition.
The Jaba militant group said it opened fire and hurled explosive devices at Israeli forces after the killing of its commander, Fakhoury, a former prisoner incarcerated by Israel. It also claimed it shot down an Israeli drone during clashes with the army.
Drone shot down
The Israeli military confirmed a drone was shot down and said the incident was under review.
For the past few months, the village of Jaba has been home to a fledgling militant group of disillusioned young Palestinians who have taken up guns against Israel’s open-ended occupation, now in its 56th year.
The group is part of a larger trend of emerging armed groups across the West Bank that have defied the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority and claim no ties to any specific political party.
The past two months have been marked by escalating violence across the West Bank.
Earlier in the week, at least six Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 14-year-old Walid Nasser died Thursday from wounds sustained in Tuesday’s raid.
At least 74 Palestinians, around half of them militants, have died in Israel’s almost daily raids in the West Bank since the beginning of the year. During the same time 14 Israelis, all but one of them civilians, were killed in Palestinian attacks.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians seek for their future state. In the decades since, more than 500,000 Jewish settlers have moved into dozens of settlements, which the international community considers illegal and an obstacle to peace.